Vigilante justice in the form of humiliating public shaming parades are disturbingly common in Indonesia. It’s also common for the vigilantes behind these criminal acts to go unpunished, since many such incidents aren’t reported to the authorities – either because the victim is financially compensated (colloquially referred to as damai, meaning “peace”) or they are threatened further by the culprits, who usually have strong backing in their respective neighborhoods.
But following one especially disturbing case that took place in the Jakarta satellite city of Bekasi involving two very young boys, the parents of the victims are refusing to accept damai from the culprits. Hopefully it is a sign that parades of shame are becoming less acceptable in Indonesia (especially in the wake of the 5-year sentence a neighborhood chief received recently involving a highly publicized public shaming case).
On April 8, a 12-year-old boy identified by his initials AJ, along with his friend H, were accused of stealing a jacket belonging to a 40-year-old man identified as Nur. With the help of several other locals, Nur caught the boys, stripped them, paraded them in the neighborhood while beating them.
Sudirman, AJ’s father, eventually reported the incident to the police on April 12. The Bekasi Metro Police arrested Nur soon after and he was charged with assault. He could now face up to five years’ imprisonment. The police are still searching for at least two others involved in the case.
After the arrest, Sudirman said Nur’s parents and respected figures in the neighborhood went to see him on Nur’s behalf to apologize and ask that the charges against him be dropped.
“I gave them five days [from the incident to apologize]. So from there we can see there was no good intention on their part to come to me,” Sudirman said, as quoted by Kompas yesterday.
Shortly after the parade of shame, Sudirman said AJ showed signs of mental trauma as he locked himself in his room for days and even asked to move schools since his friends heard about the incident. Meanwhile, H and his parents moved to the nearby town of Cikarang.
Parades of shame are especially common for adulterers or anyone found getting intimate outside of wedlock, especially in rural areas, and the abusers often escape any criminal charges. In August last year, a couple who had allegedly committed adultery were paraded through the streets of a village in East Java, only for the police to charge the man for adultery but not the neighborhood busybodies who abused the couple.